By Ranger Steve Mueller
This is year 29 for my coordinating a day with the birds, where we regularly see about 60 species. This year’s event is on January 2, 2016. It actually marks 50 years since I began participating in what is known as the Christmas Bird Count. Please join us.
Frank Chapman started the event in 1900 when he encouraged people to change the focus of a Christmas day birding event where people went out to shoot as many birds at possible to see who could the kill the most in one day. It was an exciting day for hunters to show their skills at finding birds and gathering the largest number.
Frank thought it was excessive kill and caused harm to bird populations. His effort to change human attitudes toward our use of wildlife in a less consumptive manner caught on and has become the longest running citizen science monitoring program.
People throughout North America, others in South America and across the oceans have Christmas Bird Counts on a day selected during a two-week period. Grand Rapids Audubon Club has been holding its count yearly since WW II.
Gather to enjoy seeing a large variety of birds during winter. Some species from the Arctic or Subarctic come this far south in search of food. It is often the only time we get to see them unless we take a long summer trip toward the North Pole into the area of Santa’s secret workshop.
Some unexpected oddball species are found. A few years ago we found a western Rufous Hummingbird in Lowell. Whether it survived the winter is unknown. A hummingbird bander banded the bird in hopes it might be recaptured.
Many species seen are expected but not usually encountered because we do not visit their nature niches. In our yards, we can expect to see about a dozen species daily if we feed birds. For 40 years I have kept feeders full for the birds even though I could not usually see them. I left for work before sun up and arrived home after dark. My purpose has been to help birds more than me. On weekends, I had the great pleasure of seeing them.
Please join us (details at end of column). We divide into small groups and carpool to different areas of a 7.5 radius count circle. The area is consistent so we can compare differences in bird populations over the course of decades. Some species that do well with a growing human population and development has increased, others have decreased and some have remained stable.
Some people and families participate for the whole day while others choose to end at noon. There is no participation fee but donations are accepted. This is a wonderful introduction to bird watching and to Grand Rapids Audubon. The club offers many field trips throughout the year. From September through May we also have excellent indoor programs on the last Monday of the month at 7:30 p.m.
Event: Christmas Bird Count
When: Jan. 2, 2016
Time: Gather at 7:30 a.m. Birding from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Wittenbach/Wege Center, 11715 Vergennes Rd, Lowell MI, 49331.
Bring: Binoculars and bird book if you have them. A lunch is provided for $5 or brown bag.
Dress in layers so you can shed or add as needed. We drive the area but get out to walk also.
Call or e-mail with additional questions.
Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at email@example.com – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.